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9 Brand Newly Released or New-ish Recordings and 1 Live Show
La Sera – Hour of the Dawn (Hardly Art)
Please see my full review here.
The Pains of Being Pure at Heart – Days of Abandon (Yebo Music)
Their long-awaited 3rd full-length album is unlike either the lo-fi indie-pop buzz of their self-titled debut or the beefier shoegaze and grunge influenced Belong. Instead, what we have here is shimmering, gorgeous almost orchestral pop with lead vocals on several songs by new member Jen Goma of A Sunny Day in Glasgow. The single “Simple and Sure” is a highlight, as is the ultra-catchy “Eurydice” but the slower, quieter pieces (in particular, “Kelly,” one of the songs Goma sings) demand and reward repeated listening as well.
The New Mendicants – World Cafe Live (Philadelphia) – May 2, 2014
Joe Pernice plus Norman Blake played as a duo in the smaller upstairs room of World Cafe Live and managed to play about 75 minutes’ worth of Teenage Fanclub and Pernice Brothers classics along with many tracks from their new Into the Lime along with a Jonny track. Pernice hadn’t been feeling well, so Blake took the vocal spotlight on a few of his songs, which was interesting to hear. There were also beautiful covers of Sandy Denny and Go-Betweens songs. All in all, it was a wonderful evening of music!
Close Lobsters – “Kunstwork in Spacetime” EP (Shelflife)
After a recent reunion, now we have the first new recordings by this C86 era band. It sounds like they haven’t lost a step in the 25 years since their last recordings and in particular this release reminds me more of their earlier stuff, particularly their 1st album Foxheads Stalk This Land. Another thing about this two-song single is that while both songs veer close or hover above the five-minute mark, it never feels boring. I like the nod to New York on the “New York City in Space” as well. Recommended!
Cheap Girls – Famous Graves (Xtra Mile)
The follow-up to 2012’s excellent Giant Orange is basically more of the same. I didn’t get a promo and I just started listening, so I’m not sure how much I’ll like it after I spend more time with it, but even on initial listens I like it a whole lot as it’s much in the same mindset!
Graham Parker – Live at Rockpalast 1978 and 1980 (M.I.G. Music)
Since the 1978 show is available on the also excellent, new, six-disc, Kickstarter-funded “official bootleg box set,” what is of greater interest to me is the 1980 show. It is rare to hear the final lineup of Graham Parker of the Rumour (minus keyboardist Bob Andrews but adding Nicky Hopkins in his place!) except for their Rockpalast appearance contained here. I have a VHS of it that I haven’t watched it in years, so it’s nice to hear it again. This set, dominated by material from 1980’s underrated The Up Escalator, absolutely smokes and shows that even at the end of their original tenure (they reunited in 2011 with Andrews back in tow), they were an incredibly forceful and powerful live band.
Courtney Barnett – Double EP: A Sea of Split Peas (Marathon Artists)
Yes, she evokes early ’90s U.S. indie rock and at times can sound like a much less potty-mouthed early Liz Phair, but the thing that strikes me the most about this fine compilation of two previous EPs is how disarmingly frank and yet imaginative her lyrics are. Here’s a sample from “Avant Gardener,” perhaps the best track on here. ““The paramedic thinks I’m clever cos I play guitar/ I think she’s clever cos she stops people dying.” A singer-songwriter who not only writes great songs, but is modest and has a sense of perspective is someone to be cherished for sure.
OFF! – Wasted Years (Vice)
On their second full-length (following 2012’s self-titled debut; it’s third if you count 2011’s fantastic The First Four EPs as I do), OFF! completely changes gears and makes an alt-country album. Just kidding! They don’t change the formula around one bit, so you know exactly what you’re in for, but with hardcore punk this enjoyable and evocative of early ’80s California (with Circle Jerks and Redd Kross members in tow, this is almost an inevitability), I’m not complaining!
The Hold Steady – Teeth Dreams (Razor and Tie)
It’s been four years since 2010’s Heaven is Whenever and in between there have been solo albums and member changes. Thus, it’s nice that The Hold Steady have re-emerged with a strong, great-sounding album (the production of Nick Raskulinecz has to be noted here) that is at once mature and a big step forward. Sure, the big classic-rock hooks of “Chips Ahoy” and “Stay Positive” may not be nearly as obvious and some of the guitar work evokes post-punk more than ’70s hard rock (unusual for this band), but for me this is a strength. Too often in the past, the band’s fine songs were obscured under too much riffing, but not so here. It is a bit long and the best songs (including “Spinners”) come early, but this is still perhaps their finest effort since 2006’s Boys and Girls in America (their best work).
Silver Screams – Creep Joint Scratch (Death Buy Designs)
This Boston trio’s debut EP contains five songs, one of which is a cover of TSOL‘s “Wash Away.” The fact that they chose to cover a song from TSOL’s finest album and one that was misunderstood at the time automatically endears me to them. It’s thus also fitting that like the classic Beneath the Shadows, they are difficult to pin down. One hears some early ’80s Southern California punk, ’80s Chicago punk and ’80s DC hardcore all percolating in a noisy, unfiltered stew, yet no specific band (at least as far as I can tell) is explicitly evoked. I really like this EP and am looking forward to what they have in store next!
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